Firefighters Tackle Dubai Blaze After All-night Effort, Investigate Cause

Dubai police have said they have nearly extinguished a fire that erupted at a hotel in downtown Dubai on New Years Eve. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

DUBAI, Jan 1 – Firefighters on Friday appeared to have mostly extinguished a blaze that suddenly engulfed one of Dubai’s most prominent skyscrapers on New Year’s Eve, witnesses said.

Plumes of white smoke still emanated from the charred, 63-storey Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block at daybreak, but civil defense crews had mostly extinguished the flames which erupted around 2130 (1730 GMT).

Witnesses reported seeing flames leaping from a lower portion of the building as late as around noon local time, but a hotel spokesperson said the situation was under control.

“The fire in the hotel has been contained. We would like to express our gratitude to the authorities for their immediate and professional support. An investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Dubai police said on Thursday that the building was evacuated and 14 people were lightly injured. A medic at the scene said more than 60 people were treated for mild smoke inhalation and problems caused by crowding as they fled.

Witnesses described seeing flaming debris wafting down from The Address as occupants left, some running.

The New Year’s fireworks display at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is one of Dubai’s most celebrated annual rites and attracted thousands of spectators—most of whom were evacuated before the spectacle went on as scheduled.

Live TV broadcasts of the extravaganza appeared to show only a few dozen people in the vast viewing venue near the tower.

Dubai, among the most open and peaceful cities in the war-battered Middle East, prides itself as a tourist and business hub.

But the metropolis, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), may face questions about the safety of its rapidly-constructed cityscape, especially after another high-rise building caught fire earlier this year.

Security officials said the conflagration began on the outside of the structure at the 20th floor, and the deputy chief of police said the investigation into its cause was underway.

Dhahi Khalfan posted a picture of a fireball toward the hotel’s base on his official twitter account on Friday.

“A forensic photographer from the Dubai police with the lens of his camera, from here the investigation begins,” he said.


Video by Leila Hatoum

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